12 August 2017

Muslim woman awarded $85,000 settlement after being forced to remove hijab

A California Muslim woman has been awarded $85,000 (£65,000) settlement after she was forced to remove her hijab.

In her lawsuit filed in 2016 against the city of Long Beach, Kirsty Powell said that a male police officer forcibly removed her headscarf in front of other male officers and inmates, telling her she was "not allowed to wear a hijab".

The African American was told that policemen were "allowed to touch women", and as a result she "suffered and continues to suffer extreme shame, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional distress", the suit filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of Powell stated.

It added that during her ordeal "she forced to sit in a cell feeling distraught, vulnerable and naked without her headscarf to everyone that passed".

"There really is no justification for taking off a person's religious headgear," Powell's attorney, Marwa Rifahie, said. [International Business Times] Read more

Majority of Muslim Asylum Seekers In Austria Want Jokes About Islam Banned

A new survey of Muslim migrants in Austria by the Danube University of Krems shows a distinct difference between typical Austrian values and those of incomers from places like Somalia and Chechnya, who hold far more religious views on society.

The study, released earlier this week, shows a vast difference in the attitudes of Muslim asylum seekers from mainstream opinion in the more secular Austrian society. The researchers interviewed 1,129 Muslims originally from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia and Chechnya, with 60 per cent believing jokes about Islam should be banned and a quarter saying Islam should influence Austrian law, Kronen Zeitung reports.

The interviewees’ attitudes also differed depending on their country of origin. 70 per cent of Somalians approved of banning jokes about Islam, followed by Afghanis and Chechens. Iranians tended to be less puritanical, with only 14 per cent agreeing that jokes should be banned. [Breitbart London] Read more

11 August 2017

Swiss charge Ethiopian imam with inciting violence

Swiss prosecutors have charged an Ethiopian imam with inciting violence and other offences, they said on Friday, alleging he called in a mosque sermon for followers to kill Muslims who did not pray in the community.

The step by prosecutors in the northern town of Winterthur comes amid heightened sensitivity to the risk of Islamist violence in Switzerland, whose spy agency warned about the threat in May.

Prosecutors did not name the imam, one of four people they said were linked to the local An'Nur mosque and who have been under investigation since November on suspicion of inciting criminal or violent acts.

"In his homily of Oct. 21, 2016, in the An'Nur Mosque, he is accused among other things of calling for expelling Muslims who do not pray in the community, and even burning them and killing them in their homes if they still refuse," the prosecutors said in a statement. [Reuters] Read more

10 August 2017

In Indonesia, Chinese Deity Is Covered in Sheet After Muslims Protest

A 100-foot statue depicting a Chinese deity was covered with an enormous sheet this past weekend in East Java Province, Indonesia, after Muslims threatened to tear the colossus down amid mounting ethnic and religious tensions across the country.

The Islamist campaign against the statue, a depiction of the third-century general Guan Yu, who is worshiped as a god in several Chinese religions, began online and soon spread to the gates of a Chinese Confucian temple in Tuban, near the Java Sea coast, where the figure was erected last month.

On social media, Muslims assailed the statue as an “uncivilized” affront to Islam and the island’s “home people,” and a mob gathered this week outside the East Java legislature in the city of Surabaya to demand its destruction.

Statues deemed un-Islamic have been destroyed or vandalized around Indonesia in recent years, and several Chinese temples have been set on fire. Covering the statue with a large white tarp was a stopgap measure proposed by the temple’s officials after a governmental religious body pushed them to find a solution. [The New York Times] Read more

A row has broken out in Malaysia over a primary school’s policy of providing separate drinking cups for Muslim and non-Muslim students.

Mujahid Yusof Rawa, above, vice-president of Amanah, an Islamic political party, described the practice as “unfortunate”, saying the drinking water dispenser presented a chance for Muslims and non-Muslims to share something – and there wasn’t anything wrong with that. Photos of the cups at the school – Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Puteri in Hulu Langat – have gone viral.

.... National schools are for all, regardless of race and religion. Chong, who is also MCA Youth chief, said he was awaiting the findings of a report by the Selangor Education Department.

Weighing in on the issue, G25 member Johan Arriffin said incidences like this made him fear where Islam was heading in the country. G25 is a group comprising former civil servants.

Things like this will only create divisions among Malaysians in the name of so-called religious practices. In fact, it shows how much we’ve lost our sense of what religious values actually mean — religious values like tolerance. [The Freethinker] Read more

Muslim leader Keysar Trad wants Australian men to be allowed multiple wives – but says gay marriage is wrong because people of the same gender 'should only be friends'

A Muslim leader wants Australian men to be allowed multiple wives and hopes the public will one day support his dream of Islamic marriage equality.

Keysar Trad says polygamy is actually a privilege reserved for women, even though only men are allowed multiple spouses under Islamic law.

'If public opinion was pushing for a change, that was consistent with my religion, I would not object to it,' he told Daily Mail Australia on Thursday.

'In my humble opinion, the advantage is not so much to the man.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 266 votes] I wish he'd go to a country more suited to his beliefs

[2ND 254] He thinks gay marriage is wrong, we think polygamy is wrong. Please find another country that shares the same views as you and leave.

[3RD 244] Book a one way ticket out of Australia.

[4TH 239] There [are] countries that accommodate those beliefs, no problem. Jump on a plane and go there mate.

[5TH 221] Get lost, Trad, hopefully in another country. This is Australia and every migrant will know it's laws. Don't like them then don't come. Tired of all this stuff. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

09 August 2017

Haras Ahmed and Prevent Watch: the facts

I wrote in the Sunday Telegraph in January last year about something called Prevent Watch, an organisation of Islamist activists linked to the terror-sympathising group Cage (famously supportive of “Jihadi John”) who promote inflammatory stories about the Government’s anti-terrorism policy, Prevent. I discovered that not only were many of the stories false or exaggerated, but that several of the people presented as ordinary victims in them were in fact activists in Prevent Watch.

Among these activists was a lady called Ifhat Smith, also known as Ifhat Shaheen or Ifhat Shaheen-Smith, who won copious newsprint and airtime with a claim that her schoolboy son had been “interrogated” and “treated as a criminal” because he had used the phrase “eco-terrorism” in class. It was, she told the BBC, the act of a “police state.” [Andrew Gilligan] Read more

Prevent scheme could be made compulsory, police lead says

.... Cole hit out at those criticising Prevent, such as former Met police superintendent Dal Babu, and those who said it was a cover for a spying programme on innocent people. He said: “This notion of Prevent as a toxic brand is simply incorrect, and is borne from misunderstanding. What I would like to hear more of is constructive dialogue about how we can all work together to stop innocent people being killed.

“On occasions it feels like people are sniping for the sake of it and that what they’re talking about doesn’t reflect the reality of local delivery of the voluntary safeguarding that I see going on all across the country.”

Police figures show that the numbers of referrals to Prevent concerning rightwing extremism doubled in the last year to about 15% of the total, while the bulk of referrals still concerned Islamist extremism. Other referrals were for domestic extremism, with motivations such as protecting animal rights.

Ch Supt David Smart, national coordinator for Prevent, said: “It is not necessarily about changing people’s beliefs. If you are angry about something, find a different way to express that without turning to violence. We are not saying you have to believe what I believe.” [The Guardian] Read more

Iranian children arrested for teaching Zumba and 'western' dance

Four boys and two girls have been arrested in Iran for teaching “western” dance moves including Zumba, a Colombian fitness routine, a Revolutionary Guards commander has said.

“The members of a network teaching and filming western dances have been identified and arrested,” Hamid Damghani, a commander in Shahroud, north-east Iran, was quoted by the news website Jamejam Online as saying.

“The team attracted boys and girls, taught them western dances and published their video clips on social media apps like Telegram and Instagram.

“They were arrested by the guards’ intelligence forces while teaching and creating video clips … as they sought to change lifestyles and promote a lack of hijab.”

They were charged with dancing and failing to wear proper hijab – Islamic regulations that require women to wear headscarves and ban revealing clothing in public. [The Guardian] Read more

The Prevent strategy can help stop terrorism – if we use some common sense

Finally, a public servant who has the courage to defend a national strategy that has worked pretty well in keeping us all safe from indiscriminate terrorist attacks, and which is the envy of nations worldwide, many of whom are following the UK’s lead but remain years behind in practical experience.

I have been critical of the police recently, when they failed to stop the London Bridge terrorist ringleader, even after I and others had reported our serious concerns, almost a year before the atrocity.

But Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism command, is quite right to point out that much criticism of the government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent scheme is based on ignorance or comes from extremist Islamist groups, for whom it is obviously in their interest to try to discredit and remove Prevent, since it targets ideologies, like theirs, which directly and indirectly incite and justify terrorist violence. [The Guardian] Read more

08 August 2017

Saudia Airlines warn passengers of strict dress code

Some may not be surprised to see a strict dress code on Saudi Arabian planes, since the country follows a conservative version of Sunni Islam, but others on social media think it has gone too far.

Known as one of the wealthiest nations in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia also has a reputation of restricting women's rights, in line with its interpretation of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism.

Details of the dress code featured on Saudia Airlines website show that the airline requires guests to dress in a way that does not 'cause offense or discomfort to other passengers'.

When the Saudi Makkah newspaper asked the former head of tourism and health, Ali Al Ghamdi, about the rules forbidding women from exposing limbs or wearing tight or transparent clothes he said they did not just apply to the one airline, but that many airlines around the world had a dress code at varying degrees. [BBC] Read more

Atheists in Malaysia should be hunted down, minister says

Atheists in Malaysia should be “hunted down” by authorities as there is no place for groups like this under the Federal Constitution, a minister said today.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the public should aid authorities in locating groups like the Kuala Lumpur chapter of Atheist Republic so that action could be taken.

“The (Federal Constitution) does not mention atheists. It goes against the Constitution and human rights.

“I suggest that we hunt them down vehemently and we ask for help to identify these groups,” he said in a press conference at Parliament today.

The Arau MP added that most of these Malaysians especially Muslims turn into atheists as they lack religious education.

“They actually don’t want to be atheists but it happens because of the lack of religious education. They are misled with a new school of thought,” Shahidan said. [The Malay Mail Online] Read more

07 August 2017

Luxembourg law foresees partial ban of face veils in public spaces

Luxembourg Justice Minister Félix Braz has presented a bill that would prohibit the use of face veils in public spaces.

Based on the Dutch model, which features a partial burqa ban, in Luxembourg, the use of a face veil would be banned in schools and educational establishments, hospitals, nursing homes and public institutions, as well as on public transportation.

The ban would apply to both visitors and employees.

According to the draft law, which would amend Article 563 of Luxembourg's criminal code, directors and managers of these institutions may temporarily suspend the ban.

The bill stipulates that a face veil would be allowed when used for a professional, sports, artistic or cultural reason.

In contrast to other European countries, Luxembourg has already enforced a set of rules that ban face-covering at a local level. [Luxemburger Wort] Read more

A modern day dystopia

A new report from Amnesty International gives the lie to the fond notion that Iran, under the "moderate" Rouhani and teased out of its frosty intransigence by the warmth of Obama's smile - and the nuclear deal - was slowly reforming. Far from it:

"The unlawful arrest and torture of peaceful activists and ethnic and religious minorities remain common and widespread, and are practiced with total impunity. Cruel punishments such as flogging and amputations are carried out in public to create a climate of fear and obedience to the regime.

Women and girls face systemic violence and discrimination with little or no protection under the law. And the death penalty—which is also meted out to juveniles in violation of international norms—is applied to a degree that it parachutes the Iranian regime into the top five global executioners every year, with 2015 marking the highest rate of executions since 1989. If that sounds a lot like George Orwell’s 1984, it is because Iran is a modern day dystopia." [Mick Hartley] Read more

'It is disappointing that such language was used so casually': Muslim group complains to the Federal Police for using 'Islamic-inspired terrorism' to describe Sydney plane bomb plot

A Muslim group has complained to the Australian Federal Police for using the term 'Islamic-inspired terrorism' to describe an alleged plot to bomb a passenger plane.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin used the phrase late last month when asked by a journalist if the four men arrested across Sydney were connected with ISIS.

'We do believe it's Islamic inspired terrorism,' he told reporters as he stood next to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Three of the four men arrested during the raids have since been charged.

.... Four Lebanese men, from two father and son duos, were arrested on July 29 during Saturday raids at Surry Hills, near the city, and at Lakemba, Punchbowl and Wiley Park in western Sydney.

It is alleged they were part of an ISIS-inspired terror plot to smuggle an improvised explosive device, disguised as a meat grinder, on to an Etihad Airways flight out of Sydney that could have killed more than 400 people. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

The Berlin mosque breaking Islamic taboos

.... The Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque is part of a growing movement known as inclusive Islam.

There are now liberal Muslim communities and inclusive mosques all over the world - some in private homes, others in changing locations - but Ms Ates says the Berlin mosque is a major step forward for inclusive Islam, because it is the first permanent liberal mosque, with a sign on the door, open to anyone.

"What we did new, is that this is a fixed place. And it's not a place where only people come who know each other. It's not a closed club. We are open. We tell everybody, here is a place you can come to."

One of the first inclusive mosques was set up in Paris in 2012 by Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, a gay imam from Algeria who now lives in France with his male civil partner. He is working with Ms Ates to help set up inclusive mosques elsewhere, including in Britain.

"Europe is the place where we can work on, what we consider to be, the reform of Islam," he tells me during a visit to the new mosque in Berlin.

"Because we have freedom of speech and democracy and education and welfare." [BBC] Read more

Prevent criticism 'stems from ignorance'

One of Scotland Yard's most senior police officers says criticism of the government's Prevent programme is based on "ignorance".

It was set up to stop people being drawn into terrorist activities, but has been labelled "toxic" by critics.

"They don't understand properly how Prevent works," Cdr Dean Haydon told the BBC's Asian Network.

He added that some criticism came from parts of the community that "don't want Prevent to work in the first place".

The programme was set up by Labour in 2003 and its remit was widened by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in 2011.

Designed to support people at risk of joining extremist groups and carrying out terrorist activities, it is focused on schools, faith organisations, prisons and other communities where people can be at risk of radicalisation. [BBC] Read more

In many ways, Muslim men and women see life in America differently

.... According to a new Pew Research Center survey, more Muslim women than men say it has become more difficult to be Muslim in the U.S. in recent years (57% vs. 43%).

And Muslim women are more divided on their acceptance by society at large than are men. Half (52%) of Muslim women say they have a lot in common with most Americans and 44% view the American people as friendly toward Muslim Americans, compared with two-thirds of Muslim men who say each of these things.

Muslim women also express more apprehension than men about anti-Muslim discrimination. Eight-in-ten Muslim women (83%) say there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims, compared with a smaller share of men who say this (68%). In fact, about half (55%) of women say they have experienced at least one of several specific types of anti-Muslim discrimination in the past year. [Pew Research Center] Read more

How the ‘homophobic Muslim’ became a populist bogeyman

Here’s something you may not have thought likely. A majority of American Muslims now believes that it’s fine to be gay. The latest Pew Research Centre survey, published on 26 July, tells us that most think homosexuality “should be accepted by society”.

The poll further shows how dramatically acceptance has risen, nearly doubling from 27% to 52% since 2007 (among millennial Muslims, it’s 60%). Muslims may lag behind the general public, for whom the corresponding figure on this issue is 63%, but they poll at exactly the same percentage as Protestants and far above white evangelical Christians, a mere 34% of whom believe that homosexuality should be tolerated.

If you have actually spent some time with American Muslims you won’t be surprised by these numbers. I’m not. This is a multifaceted group of people, representing many different and sometimes conflicting tendencies and traditions. But the Pew data shows us that the overall tilt of the community, even while it is itself contending with high levels of discrimination, is progressive and optimistic. [The Guardian] Read more

06 August 2017

Deputy minister: Probe underway on Muslims joining Atheist Club

The government will investigate if there are Muslims who have joined the Kuala Lumpur Atheist Club, as made viral on the social media recently, said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki.

He stressed on the importance for a detailed investigation to be conducted and urged for the involvement of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (SKMM) as it involved the faith of Muslims in the country.

According to Asyraf Wajdi, jurisdiction on Islamic faith is under the Syariah Criminal Enactment of each state, while at the Federal Territories level, it is under the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi).

“If it is proven that there are Muslims involved in atheist activities that could affect their faith, the state Islamic religious departments or Jawi could take action. I have asked for Jawi to look into this grave allegation,” he told reporters after officiating the Indera Mahkota Division Umno Youth Delegates’ Conference here today. [Malay Mail Online]

Read more

A Picture of Malaysian Atheists Has Led to a Government Crackdown on Ex-Muslims

.... Last week, the Consulate of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia got together for dinner and drinks and they took a picture of the group to celebrate the occasion.

Taking that picture may have been a mistake.

Malaysia ostensibly has freedom of religion… but the rules don’t apply to Muslims who want to leave the faith. There are rules to prohibit — or at least make it very difficult to go through — such a (de)conversation.

So back to that picture. The Malaysian government caught wind of the photo and began wondering if there were any secret Muslims in there… because they had to be punished.

All this because a handful of atheists wanted to hang out together.

It doesn’t stop there either. The news coverage led to a lot of Malaysians calling for the imprisonment or death of apostates over social media. [Friendly Atheist] Read more

04 August 2017

Lower Saxony set to ban Islamic face veils in schools

The case of a Muslim pupil refusing to remove her niqab triggered debate in Lower Saxony. Now a new law may mean that full-face Islamic veils will no longer be allowed in state schools.

The state of Lower Saxony is expected to announce a ban on face veils such as burqas and niqabs in schools in August, following a unanimous decision by the state parliament on Thursday to amend current education policies, reports the Branschweiger Zeitung.

A niqab covers the whole body except for a slit for the eyes, whereas a burqa fully covers the body including the eyes.

The state's school board also plans on publishing regulations for the practical handling of the ban.

Some parent and and school group representatives at a state parliament meeting rejected the ban, including Birhat Kaçar, chair of Lower Saxony's pupils' council, who said the policy would not solve the problems that come with dealing with fully-veiled pupils. Kaçar argued that issues involving religious attire should be dealt with by the schools themselves. [The Local] Read more

Protests at Birmingham mosque over controversial cleric

Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin is the head priest of the Dawoodi Bohra community, a branch of Islam with thousands of followers in the UK.

He is accused of promoting the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

For two days those opposed to his beliefs on FGM have held a peaceful protest outside the new Bohra Masjid mosque in Hockley.

No one from the mosque was available for comment. [BBC] Read more

Algerian women defy Islamists by wearing bikinis on the beach

Thousands of Algerian women have defied Islamist hardliners by going to the beach in their bikinis.

The campaign began in the coastal town of Annaba after an Islamic internet campaign during Ramadan in which men published photographs on social media of women in bikinis, saying that they were acting against the values of Algerian society.

There is no law against bikinis in the country but women are increasingly stigmatised for wearing them and face growing pressure to switch to burkinis, the Islamic swimwear that covers the entire body.

The internet campaign exacerbated tensions in Algeria amid the spread of fundamentalist Islam.

A group of women in Annaba responded by launching a Facebook group that urged members to stand firm by wearing bikinis. [The Times (£)] Read more

Study: Radical Islamists Actually Have Extensive Knowledge of Islam

An Islamic theologian at the University of Vienna has conducted a study of radical Islamists proving that many have an extensive knowledge of Islam despite mainstream claims that radical Islamists have little understanding of their own religion.

In his new 310-page study of 29 radical Islamists, Islamic theologian Ednan Aslan claims religion plays a far larger role in the actions of jihadists than economic factors and frustration with society, Die Welt reports.

“Regardless of their religious knowledge, a radicalised person sees in theology an offer that gives meaning and structure to their lives,” Aslan claims.

The study, which was financed by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also warns of the effect of radical Islamist Salafist groups which it says provide support and logistics for jihadists. “Persons with a higher theological knowledge function as authorities and play a central role in the spread of ideology,” according to the study. [Breitbart London] Read more